Appukuttan, Shailesh (2018) Non-STEM researchers’ use of technology for research activities: A phenomenographic analysis identifying varied experiences, the relationships between them and the structure of awareness. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The government and funding bodies encourage researchers to develop their use of technology and related e-Infrastructure to enhance research. Due to the disciplinary nature of research, this study focuses on researchers from non-STEM areas, such as Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, Business and Law, and aims to understand their experiences of using technology. The study used a phenomenographic approach to map and understand the experiences of 26 experienced researchers from 10 Further and Higher Education institutions in England. Marton and Booth’s extension of subject-object relationship (Piaget, Brentano) and the structure of awareness (Gestalt, Gurwitsch) were used to theorise the data. The findings describe researchers’ experiences of technology use by categorising them in four prominent ways: Irrelevant (in the background of research); Secondary (led by research); Integral (embedded in research); and Informing (complementing research).

The thesis maps the outcome space of this phenomenographic analysis and shows that variation in the experiences of using technology amongst these researchers can be understood in terms of their structure of awareness, that is, which critical aspects are in their focus at that particular point. These critical aspects are informed by the way researchers have experienced research, and their experiences of technical support and development. The variations are also related to the subject-object relationship between the researcher and the direct object (technology) as well as between the researcher and the indirect object (aims or benefits). Furthermore, a particular researcher could experience technology use differently depending on these combinations of focus in different situations, and they could move from one way of experiencing to another by being aware of the different ways of experiencing through their peers or professional development programmes.

The thesis offers insights into the range of ways in which researchers approach research tasks through the lens of technology use. It makes an original contribution through this description and analysis of the qualitatively varied ways in which researchers experience technology use in their research and the critical aspects that explain these variations. In addition, it makes a methodological contribution in relation to the use of a phenomenographic approach for understanding the issues and questions in the area of researchers’ use of technology.

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